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 Dennis Meighan Burlingame  (1901 - 1964)

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Lived/Active: Iowa/Pennsylvania      Known for: genre-circus, figure, interiors

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Ad Code: 4
Dennis Meighan Burlingame
from Auction House Records.
The Carnival Side Shows
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Dennis Meighan Burlingame (1901-1964)

Born in Oneida, New York, Dennis Burlingame participated in both summer sessions of the Stone City Art Colony*. During 1933, he served as faculty and assisted Arnold Pyle with the popular framing classes. After Adrian Dornbush purchased a small cabin next to the Wapsipinicon River, he turned over the famous water tower house to Burlingame, Pyle, and Jefferson Smith, the colony's second business manager. Dennis became known as the bartender for the Sickle and Sheaf, the restaurant created by colony students.

Labeled as a "circus painter" for his paintings of clowns and sideshow scenes, Burlingame's early works became part of a circus art genre. Several family stories state that Dennis worked briefly for the James Strait circus (located in Florida) as a snake charmer, a tale fitting of his lifestyle, where he would "vanish" for years and then reappear in New York.  Author Darrell Garwood, who explained that Burlingame worked with a circus for seven years, corroborates the legend. While working as a circus scenery painter, Burlingame also decorated the Strait's merry-go-rounds, painted murals at Florida's famous 1920s Flamingo Night Club, and did private mural commissions for club patrons, including Arthur Godfrey, the entertainer.

Burlingame's paintings were featured in several Iowa exhibitions, including: the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs (1932) and the Iowa Art Salon, Iowa State Fair. Three paintings (First Ballyhoo, Carnival Canvas, and Side Show Interior) were purchased by the federal government as part of the WPA art program and were later displayed in Washington, D.C.

Awarded a WPA* commission for the Wildwood, New Jersey post office in 1934, Burlingame completed its two mural panels in 1935. A 1939 showing of WPA art at the M.H. DeYoung Memorial Museum (San Francisco) featured several of his paintings. Dennis was also the featured artist for Art Digest's coverage of a 1939 New York Federal Art Project* easel paintings exhibition; his work, Winter Hay, was selected for the magazine's cover. Burlingame also created a mural for his sister's home in Utica, New York.

Stone City Colony records record that in 1933 Burlingame claimed Dubuque, Iowa as his home. A scholar of both history and art, Dennis was a self-taught artist with oils as his main medium. Burlingame once worked for Walt Disney's studios in New York City as an artist, and he briefly shared an apartment with Jackson Pollock in Greenwich Village. His later years found his style moving from landscapes into abstract painting.

His last residence was Brooklyn, New York, where he died in 1964.

"When Tillage Begins:The Stone City Art Colony and School", Published online October 2003 by the Busse Library, Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

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